Venture capital, Americas-style
Andres Moreno, founder and CEO of Open English, said it took him more than a year to raise his first $400,000. “Every morning I’d get off my friend’s couch in Menlo Park, put on the same suit jacket and go ask for money,” explaining that he was meeting with Silicon Valley angel investors and was sometimes raising $25,000 at a time. “I was getting really good at it.”
Fast-forward to today, and Open English has landed major venture backing. Open English, the fast-growing Miami company that offers live online English classes all over Latin America, has already raised more than $55 million and is in the process of raising another significant round. That will go to fund the expansion of Open English beyond the region.
Moreno, who started his company in 2006 in Venezuela, was part of a panel that explored venture capital and entrepreneurship in Latin America. The panel, hosted by AS/COA and the Latin American Venture Capital Association (LAVCA) and held last week at The LAB Miami, also included Cate Ambrose, president of LAVCA, Juan Pablo Cappello, co-founder and board member of Idea.me, Boris Hirmas Said, chairman of Tres Mares Group and chairman of Yellow Pepper, and Manny Medina, managing partner of Medina Capital Group and chairman of the Technology Foundation of the Americas.
Panelists described the venture landscape in Latin America as way ahead of where it was just five years ago, but still with a ways to go. Some U.S. venture firms have entered the market recently and “we are seeing more Latin venture firms co-investing with U.S. firms, learning how venture capital is done,” Ambrose said. According to LAVCA research, Colombia and Mexico’s entrepreneurial ecosystems have made great strides in the past year, outpacing Brazil by some measures. Similar to what we hear locally, the panelists said the region could use some more big exits, or success stories, to attract more venture attention.
Coming up this week
Refresh Miami, the largest networking group in South Florida, keeps outgrowing its venues. This Thursday its monthly event — the topic is “Lean Startup” — will be held in two large rooms at the Miami Science Museum, with an expected attendance of up to 500. Refresh Miami has organized more than 76 events and has about 5,000 members.
The Startup Bus, which made its debut run at last month’s Refresh event and then followed with a Miami-to-Delray Beach run for a Startup Delray event, will be back to shuttle members from Palm Beach and Broward counties. More information on Refresh Miami’s event is here: http://refreshmiami.com/event/refreshmiami-lean-startup/
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